Family-friendly events highlight Diversity Festival
By Amber Barrios
Those who attend this year's Diversity Festival can start their day off with books and puppets, throw in some balloons and bubbles and then finish it off by dancing with a teddy bear and a taking a few swings at a piñata.
"In the past there's only been a half a day or less of children's activities," said Marilyn Olson, Red Wing Diversity Festival steering committee chair. "This year there will be something that appeals to the children all day long."
That should be a draw for everyone: "We found that if we have something that appeals to the children, it appeals to the families, and that's who we want to draw is the families," she added.
The festival kicks off at 10 a.m. and lasts until 4 p.m. Saturday Sept. 14, at Central Park. This year's theme is "Exploring Our Roots." There is no cost to attend, and the festival will take place rain or shine.
Children can make diversity crafts throughout the day. Scheduled children's activities begin at 10:30 a.m. with story time and puppets for preschool- and elementary-aged kids, led by staff from Red Wing Public Library.
Olson highlighted a performance by the Teddy Bear Band, a Twin Cities-based musical group, set for 2:20 to 3 p.m. on the Central Park Band Shell stage, as a particularly special event for families.
"They play music that appeals to children, however they also have a mascot that works the audience in a bear costume, so that will be a fun novelty for the kids," Olson said. She further explained that the band — which performs with a small, medium or large group — will be bringing its full complement.
According to the Teddy Bear Band's website, "participation and interaction are cornerstone concepts of the Teddy Bear Band's musical shows." The group encourages audience members to bring their own teddy bear to the performance, if possible.
Additional children's activities include: 11 to 11:30 a.m., games and exercises for preschoolers by staff from Red Cottage Montessori; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Balloon Man David Olson; 1-1:45 p.m., activities and games for older kids by Dave Borgen; 3 to 3:45 p.m. piñata, sponsored by Hispanic Outreach.
The festival also includes stage events and performances on the Band Shell stage, beginning with opening activities at 10 a.m., followed by Groupo Tirador, a Hispanic band from the Twin Cities, at 10:55 a.m.
"They've been here for several years," Olson said. "It's kind of an expectation by people that they're going to be here. It's a very lively group that really engages the audience."
Ray Sands and the Polka Dots take the stage at noon. This is the first time there has been a polka band at the Diversity Festival.
"We're experimenting with different types of entertainment because we are exploring our roots," Olson said. "The people in this area, a lot of their heritage is German and Polish."
Next up is the Amos Owen Award presentation at 12:45 p.m. The annual award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated superior effort in promoting and protecting human rights. Afterward, the Red Wing Human Rights Commission will give a short presentation on immigration, Olson said.
Long Time Gone, a bluegrass group that often performs locally, is on stage at 1:15 p.m.
"Long Time Gone has never played at the festival, but they have played a lot of other things in the Red Wing area," Olson said.
Larry Yazzie, a Native American fancy dancer, will round out the lineup. His performance begins at 3:15 p.m.
"Larry has been at most of the festivals ... and has become a tradition," Olson said.
Part of that tradition includes a friendship dance, led by Yazzie, which marks the close of the festival's activities. Most of the people who have been to the festival before are familiar with this tradition, Olson said.
"Larry Yazzie does his regular performance on stage, then our closing for the festival itself is the friendship dance," Olson explained. "Anybody in the audience is invited to participate in the closing friendship dance. They form a large circle — or more than one large circle if there is enough of them — and they dance to Native American music and Larry Yazzie leads the dance. It's a tradition. We have done it every year."
Festival attendees also have the opportunity to participate in free emergency response training sessions. Family CPR sessions will take place every 15 minutes from 1-3:30 p.m. Those who wish to participate should sign up at the festival for a time slot. There will also be an opportunity to sign up for a regular first aid course at a future date to receive a certification, Olson said.
Code Red training will be offered from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Pre-registration is required and will be taken at the festival grounds the day of the event.
"Code Red is a local alert system where, when you sign up for it, if there is an emergency of any sort, you receive a phone call," Olson said of the county-wide system.
Food & art
Four food vendors will offer ethnic and American food, while more than 60 exhibitors and vendors will have displays set up throughout Central Park.
Olson explained that the exhibitors include organizations within the community who wish to provide information on the services they offer.
"It's an informative thing," Olson said. "We ask them to follow the theme of the festival if they can."
Red Wing Arts Association will sponsor an art exhibit and sale directly across the street from the festival at Christ Episcopal Church.
For more information on the event, visit www.redwingdiversityfestival.com or call Marilyn Olson at 651-388-0707.